An Americaneagle Saves Our “Rockets’ Red Glare”


As reported in both local newspapers this week, the annual July 3rd fireworks display at Maine East High School is safe for at least another year, thanks to a donation from local website design firm, Inc.  And Americaneagle’s Tony Svanascini says next summer’s show will be bigger and better than ever.

Chalk up one very visible example of how a successful local business can give back to the community above and beyond the taxes it pays.  And even above and beyond – in Americaneagle’s case – the 140 or so people it employs. 

When we wrote about the petty politics that was threatening our annual pyrotechnic tradition (“When Politicians Play With Fireworks”, August 13, 2008), we noted that certain Park Ridge Park District commissioners reportedly were miffed that the City of Park Ridge seemed to be getting all the credit for that event.  So those commissioners – who readily turn a blind eye toward the red ink pouring out of other Park District facilities or programs, like the $80,000 or so each summer from the dead pool leaking at Oakton – became born-again fiscal conservatives and targeted the rockets’ red glare for a trimming.

But if we have our information straight, even though the Park District actually wrote the check each year for the cost of the fireworks portion of the show, the Park District was being reimbursed for that cost by the City of Park Ridge.  One way or the other, adding, Inc.’s donation to the equation means that either the City or the Park District just found $18,000 more in next year’s budget. 

Meanwhile, Americaneagle’s private contribution to this event – along with the contributions of our tax dollars by the City, the Park District and School District 207 (through Maine East), and an $8,000 contribution (public/private?) from the Park Ridge Fine Arts Society – causes us to inquire once again about why the Park Ridge Kiwanis Clubs purportedly gets an “exclusive” food concession deal for the event, especially without any known contribution by them to the cost of the event?

We reiterate that we’ve got nothing against the Kiwanis, but if the taxpayers continue to fund a substantial part of the fireworks show that enables the Kiwanis to fundraise on an “exclusive” basis, we think that, at the very least, the Kiwanis owes those same taxpayers answers to the following questions: (1) How did they get an “exclusive” deal?  And (2) What kind of profit, if any, do they make off the show?  We also think it would be a fine gesture for them to produce a financial report documenting the revenue and expenses they generate from this event.

We suspect that these questions and request will provoke comments similar to those raised in response to our August 13 posting: that the Kiwanis does so much good for the community that it’s an insult to ask them such things.  

But before anyone talks about insults, maybe they should first explain why the Kiwanis Clubs appear to be the only net “takers” from among the array of net “givers,” both public and private, each Independence Day?

Of White Shirts And Brown Shirts


We’re still hearing about the City of Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission meeting Monday night at Emerson Middle School (in Niles), which reportedly was attended by as many as 350 residents. 

The main event of the evening was a public hearing on what requirements should be built into the new Special Use Permit being created to permit temporary homeless shelters in Park Ridge, like the PADS shelter currently planned for St. Paul of the Cross School’s gymnasium.

You might think that this issue itself would have enough substance to satisfy all of the interested parties without the need to resort to sideshows and gimmicks.  If so, you would be wrong, as the supporters of the PADS shelter decided to add a fashion statement to the proceedings.

By pre-arrangement, those supporters arrived in white shirts – perhaps because they couldn’t collect enough white 10-gallon hats to effect the “Western” cliché of the “good” cowboys versus the bad ones.  These “white shirts” seemed intent on presenting a show of force to the P&Z members, most of who looked like they never bargained for this kind of “heater” issue or this much public attention when they sought their appointments or re-appointments to P&Z from Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark.

For the record, Frimark – a PADS supporter – was observed in the audience wearing a suit, the coat of which he soon doffed to highlight the white shirt underneath.

We question the wearing of partisan garb of any type – in this case, white shirts – in the context of local government proceedings like the P&Z hearing Monday night.  When used as they were at Emerson, the shirts clearly served to visually divide the audience while at the same time claiming for the pro-PADS contingent the “good guys” persona – and providing a subtle form of intimidation as well.

Ironically, throughout the PADS shelter debate, it has been the pro-PADS forces who have chided the opposition for creating “divisiveness” in the community, and it has also been the pro-PADS forces (including Mayor Frimark) who have repeatedly questioned the “Christianity” of the members of the opposition – under the self-serving but legally erroneous view that this is a “religious” rather than a civic issue.

Although these shirts were white, the concept harkens back to a more troublesome political paradigm from 1930s Germany and the wearing of shirts of a different color – in that case, brown – to identify a particular political faction and intimidate its opposition.  One of the tactics of those “brownshirts” was to attack their opponents (principally, the Jews) as morally inferior.  Sound familiar?

The debate over the Special Use Permit requirements is a serious one with far-reaching implications for the entire community.  It should be conducted and decided on the merits of the competing policies and ideas, not on shirt color or the sturm und drang it encourages. 

But if either side wants this matter settled by raw numbers of supporters or opponents rather than by policy considerations and ideas, then the best way to get accurate numbers is to put the issue to advisory referendum on the April 2009 ballot.

Any takers? 

PADS Shelter Special Use Permit To Be Discussed Tonight


In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the City of Park Ridge’s Planning & Zoning Commission will meet tonight in Niles(!) to take up the matter of text amendments to the City’s zoning ordinance in order to permit and regulate temporary homeless shelters. 

The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Emerson Middle School, 8101 N. Cumberland Avenue, Niles, Illinois, presumably in anticipation of an overflow crowd of residents wanting to be heard on this matter, which has generated a lot of heat and light on how this community views its obligations toward the homeless – not just the homeless with ties to Park Ridge, but the homeless from other communities as well.

Although PADS supporters have argued that churches like St. Paul of the Cross, whose school is the planned site for the PADS shelter each Sunday night from October through April, should not have to comply with City ordinances for such a shelter because it purports to be a religious “ministry,” the City Council disagreed – based on two recent local federal court cases – and it referred the matter to Planning & Zoning to come up with appropriate standards for permitting such a “special use” of those premises. 

One of the issues debated by aldermen and residents alike is whether PADS needs to be a co-applicant with St. Paul.  In one of those recent court cases involving a shelter in Elgin, the court noted that PADS was not only a co-applicant, it was the applicant.  The Elgin version of a special use permit limited PADS “clients” from staying at the shelter more than three days unless they could demonstrate that they had a “connection” to Elgin, based on any one of four criteria:

  • a mailing address in Elgin within past two years;
  • established employment in Elgin;
  • residence in Elgin of the person’s immediate family; or
  • current attendance in an Elgin school by the person or the person’s child.

According to many St. Paul parishioners, church leadership has disregarded their legitimate safety and health concerns about running a PADS shelter in the school’s gymnasium every Sunday night.  Consequently, they are viewing the City Council as their last resort for making sure that the interests of their children and of the community as a whole are respected and protected at least as much as the interests of PADS and the homeless. 

Here’s hoping that the City does its job in that respect, and that tonight’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting is a productive first step in a process that properly recognizes the fundamental principle of separation of church and state.  Because contrary to what PADS shelter proponents contend, this is every bit as much of a civic matter as it is a religious ministry.

We encourage everyone with an interest in this important issue to attend tonight’s meeting so that the Planning & Zoning Commission can consider the views of the broadest cross-section of our community in making its recommendations to the City Council.

A “Culture of Secrecy” Vignette


We here at PublicWatchdog have complained regularly about the Culture of Secrecy that often keeps the voters and taxpayers in the dark – or at least the twilight – when it comes to what our local governments are doing.  So the release of The Ekl Report to the public Monday was a step in the right direction.

But it didn’t come off without a couple of hiccups, courtesy of 5th Ward Ald. Robert Ryan and 3rd Ward Ald. Don Bach.

Ryan asked City Attorney “Buzz” Hill if it was legally permissible to issue the report publicly because City employees were named in it.  This is a typical “Culture of Secrecy” tactic, which plays on the fact that the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) does permit – but does not require – “personnel” discussions to be held in closed sessions.

Buzz said that he thought it was appropriate because there was a consensus of the Council (although not a unanimous one) that The Ekl Report should be released to the public that was paying for it and that has a clear interest in those results.  Good for Buzz.

Undeterred, Ryan asked Hill whether, because of the names in the report, releasing it to the public was the “right thing” to do?

Once again, Buzz said that he thought it was okay.  Good for Buzz, again.

Apparently hoping that the third time would be the charm, Ryan then asked City Mgr. Jim Hock the same question, adding “From an H.R. perspective…is it the right thing to do?”

Hock replied that there was no official action to be taken in terms of personnel and discipline in connection with the report; and that it seemed in the Council’s best interest to release it because it had assured the community that it would do so. Good for Jim.

Then Bach briefly took up the secrecy cudgel, asking City Attorney Hill if there was anything in the report the city could be sued for?  That’s another Culture of Secrecy ploy which has been used in the past by Bach and also 4th Ward. Ald. Jim Allegretti who, as an attorney, should know that the City enjoys governmental immunity from much of the liability to which ordinary people and corporations are subject. 

Buzz replied that he saw nothing about the release of the report that would subject the City to liability.

So at least for today we’re giving Buzz Hill and Jim Hock a “well done” for striking a blow against the Culture of Secrecy.  And we offer them our hearty encouragement to keep it up.

Special Note: The PubDogs want to offer belated “Happy Birthday” wishes to the “PRU Crew” at Park Ridge Underground, which celebrated its first year of operation yesterday.  Thanks for your “irreverent and unrepentent satire and irony.” 

The Ekl Report: Long On Conclusions, Shorter On Facts


It’s here!  The anxiously-awaited “audit” of the Park Ridge Police Department – we’ll call it “The Ekl Report”[pdf] for its author, attorney Terry A. Ekl – has been released to the City Council and the public (although some City officials reportedly wanted a “private” sneak peek before its public release).

As predicted on this site on several prior occasions, it points an admonishing finger at former Police Chief Jeffrey Caudill for, in a nutshell, not having been as good a chief as he had been a detective, and as he is a person.  Beyond Caudill, the report is dominated by three main topics: The divisiveness in the department related to Cmdr. Lou Jogman; the Jayne Reardon arrest; and the problematic conduct of Officer Matthew McGannon.

Ekl begins his report with the warning that he “will not make findings of a factual nature unless [he has] been presented with credible, first-hand evidence of misconduct.” (Page 2)  That’s fine in concept, but the report ends up with – in our opinion – a lot of conclusions and recommendations that don’t seem to have findings of fact to back them up. 

The report states that Ekl and his staff interviewed “80 individuals” (Page 11), but  only 18 of 61(?) sworn officers (Page 10); and we can’t tell for sure how many residents beyond the 40 reported at Pages 6-7 were interviewed, or whether that 40 included all of the various City elected and appointed officials that were interviewed.  This would not seem to be the basis for much in the way of findings of fact or conclusions/recommendations.  Nevertheless, Ekl liberally salts his report with recommendations that would appear to go beyond the scope of his factual investigation and that require law enforcement and labor management expertise seemingly beyond Ekl’s credentials.

For example, the report states that “[t]here are many officers who are unhappy with the direction of the department” (Pages 14 and 24) without quantifying how many is “many” and without explaining what that “direction” is.  Similarly, Ekl reports of there being “a significant portion” (Page 4) and “a vocal portion” (Page 18) of the community that lacks confidence in the department, without even attempting to quantify how substantial a “portion” that is, or identifying the specific evidence supporting that conclusion.

A glaring omission of “fact” relates to the intrusion of elected officials into the day-to-day operations of the police department. (Pages 30-32)  Frankly, the lack of any identification of those officials smacks of a cover-up that has no justification if Ekl did, indeed, find evidence of such intrusion.

The last nine pages of the report contain Ekl’s “Recommendations,” many of which involve labor and employment matters – progressive discipline (Page 40), promotions (Page 41) – which implicate the police officers’ rights under their union contract and also involve management policy on which Ekl may not even be qualified to opine. 

We encourage you to read The Ekl Report with a critical eye toward what it says and what it doesn’t say; and then judge for yourself whether the Police Department, the City, and the taxpayers are well-served by it.

Why There’s No Need For “Secret” Discussions Of Property Deals


Last week we wrote about how Park Ridge Mayor Howard Frimark was again characteristically off-base in his view of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) because IOMA does not require that anything discussed in closed session be treated as “confidential” or kept secret. (Frimark’s Secret Land Deals No Bargain For Taxpayers, August 14) 

Today we discuss why there is no need for confidential dealings with property owners when the City needs to acquire private property.

The State of Illinois’ eminent domain laws give municipalities like Park Ridge the power to buy private property necessary for a legitimate public purpose at its fair market value (“FMV”) – defined as what a purchaser “willing, but not obligated, to buy the property, would pay to an owner willing, but not obliged, to sell in a voluntary sale.” 735 ILCS 30/10-5-60.  Before a city can use eminent domain, however, it has to make a good-faith attempt to negotiate with the property owner by offering to pay the property’s appraised value.  

So if the City has the right, by state law, to force the owner of any private property necessary for the public’s purpose to sell it to the City at the property’s FMV, why do Frimark and his Alderpuppets keep running into closed sessions to discuss those purchases in secret? 

The first excuse is that the City must act secretly to keep the price from being jacked up.  As Frimark wrote in his letter to the Herald-Advocate last week: “Once the marketplace learns that a government entity is even interested in acquiring a particular property, the price is driven upward.”  In other words, our mayor is claiming – without any supporting data, or course – that someone who was not even interested in the property or who was unwilling to pay FMV for it, will run right out and offer the owner of that property more than the FMV the minute the City’s interest becomes known.

For that theory to work, however, the property owner would have to be willing to accept less than FMV for his property from the City, while at the same time knowing that he can get more than FMV from private buyers.  That’s just plain goofy to us, but if you think it makes sense then you probably are qualified to be a Park Ridge alderpuppet…or even the mayor! 

The other excuse kept at the ready by Culture of Secrecy schemers is that the people of Park Ridge don’t like eminent domain.  But we checked around and nobody seems to remember the last time the City actually used eminent domain to acquire land for a public necessity.  So we suspect that what people may be remembering are the times the City talked about using eminent domain to help out a favored/connected developer acquire property for its own private purposes and profit.

For example, the public rallied against the City’s talk of condemning the Shell gas station at Greenwood and Dempster so that Bredemann Auto Group could redevelop that property.  It also objected to the City’s threat to condemn Fair Play Sports and the Happy House restaurant at Meacham and Northwest Hwy. in order to get that parcel into the hands of Uptown developer PRC.  There were also complaints when Joseph Freed & Associates was trying to redevelop Summit Mall and sought the City’s help to acquire the Pancake House because Freed wasn’t making enough headway with the owner.

In each of those cases, however, the public’s concerns appear to have been about losing those established businesses to redevelopment, not about the use of eminent domain to acquire them. 

But when the city negotiates private deals, FMV seems to be more like a starting point for negotiations instead of the end point.  The City sold the reservoir block – without even getting a formal appraisal – to PRC for what’s been suggested as at least $5 million below that property’s FMV.  Just last year, Frimark requested a new appraisal on 720 Garden when the City’s appraisal (after being adjusted upwards to compensate for a square footage error) came back at a few hundred thousand dollars less than the owner was asking for.  And let’s not forget how the City was eager to pay Owen Hayes II a full $200,000 more for the Foot and Ankle Surgeons building on Busse Hwy. than Hayes himself had just paid for it.

The history of City real estate “deals” negotiated in closed session suggests that while the City might get to “yes” quicker through a private deal than through eminent domain, it will almost certainly pay more (or in the case of the reservoir block, receive less) than the FMV for the property, thereby wasting a good chunk of the public purse to fatten the wallets of the owners/sellers.  

Anyone who says that government bureaucrats can bargain effectively against private property owners or developers is either delusional or an outright liar.  And the sooner the folks at 505 Butler Place figure that out, the better off the taxpayers of Park Ridge will be.

Frimark’s Secret Land Deals No Bargain For Taxpayers


Kudos to the Herald-Advocate for giving Mayor Howard Frimark yet another opportunity to display his voracious appetite for secret land deals – while at the same time highlighting his ignorance of not only the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“IOMA”) but also the law of eminent domain that allows governmental bodies to buy whatever property they need for the public good by paying its fair market value (“FMV”).  

Frimark’s letter to the editor (“Confidential information should not be released,” August 14) scolds First Ward Ald. Dave Schmidt for blowing the whistle on an attempt by Frimark and his alderpuppets to bail out Frimark friend and campaign contributor Napleton Cadillac by having the City acquire Napleton’s recently-closed Busse Hwy. site, ostensibly for the big new police station the mayor wants to put his name on.  That’s after Frimark’s plan to gift Napleton with as much as $2.4 million of taxpayer dollars fell through when GM allegedly pulled Napleton’s dealerships.

Frimark correctly notes that land acquisition is one of the recognized exceptions to IOMA’s open meeting requirement and permits closed session discussions, away from the prying eyes of the press and the public.  But he then conveniently ignores an even more important fact about IOMA: that it doesn’t require any closed sessions at all, for any reason; and it also doesn’t require that closed session activities be kept secret or “confidential.”  

That’s because the state legislature realized that the best way “to protect the public treasury and the taxpayers whose hard earned dollar [sic] fund that treasury” – Frimark’s professed concern – is to ensure the public’s right to know what its local governments are doing with that treasury, including what they are doing in those closed sessions. 

Consequently, it’s perfectly legal for Ald. Schmidt or anybody else to walk out of one of those closed sessions and reveal anything and everything that went on in there, or to write it all up and distribute it anywhere and everywhere.  That’s what really frosts Frimark and ticks off his alderpuppets, because they can’t legally enforce their Culture of Secrecy against a straight shooter like Schmidt.

So Frimark makes up an excuse for trying to keep land deals secret from us taxpayers who get stuck paying for them: Secrecy saves us money!  

According to our mayor, secret deals between the City and private property owners prevent “the marketplace” from finding out about the City’s interest and driving up the price.  That’s because (wink, wink) those private property owners like Napleton would much rather take a lot less money from the City than what they could otherwise get from “the marketplace.”  Yeah, right.

If you want to see how well that concept works, look no further than the City’s aborted attempt to buy the former Foot and Ankle Surgeons headquarters on Busse Hwy. across from the Public Works building.  As we reported in 515 Busse Highway – The Park Ridge Police Station That Almost Was (November 15, 2007), local realtor and Friend of Frimark Owen Hayes II almost flipped that building to the City in 2004 for a $200,000 profit within days of his having acquired it himself. 

So unless Hayes was able to really lowball his own client (he was also the listing broker for the Surgeons), the FMV of that property – the price at which the City could have condemned and bought it – was Hayes’ purchase price of $950,000.  Yet the City, with then-4th Ward Ald. Howard Frimark reportedly leading the cheers, was ready to pay $1,150,000 for it…without so much as even getting it appraised (if our source is correct).

No appraisals.  Big, quick profits for the sellers at the taxpayers’ expense.  And insults for the one guy with the guts and integrity to tell the truth.  That’s what we get when “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark does things his way – behind closed doors.  

When Politicians Play With Fireworks


The annual July 3rd fireworks display at Maine East High School is a grand tradition which Park Ridgians young and old eagerly await each summer.  The shows are spectacular, and they entertain not only the crowd at Maine East but also the crowds that gather at nearby locations such as North, Northwest and Woodland Parks.

But from the sound of things we might soon be seeing a less spectacular kind of fireworks from some of our local officials.

As reported in the July 23, 2008 edition of the Herald-Advocate (“District 207 wants chance to raise funds at fireworks, too”), School Dist. 207 Board member Jeff Bergen wants the District to be able to fundraise at the event in return for its donating the Maine East facilities.  We hear worse ideas from politicians and government bureaucrats almost every day, so we aren’t about to beef about District 207 getting a little quid pro quo for providing a venue for the fireworks.

But Dist. 207 isn’t alone in its discontent.  The Park Ridge Park District reportedly will be discussing at its August 21st meeting whether to pull out as one of the main sponsors of the fireworks – allegedly because it doesn’t believe it’s getting enough credit for helping to sponsor the event.  Assuming the report is true, that could be an entertaining discussion next Thursday night.

These two items got us interested enough to look into the money side of the fireworks show, because when it comes right down to it money is usually at the heart of most of these intergovernmental dust-ups.  And frankly, when its our money, we don’t mind a little frugality.

What we found was not one but two financial reports on this year’s fireworks show: One by the City of Park Ridge Public Works Department and the other by the Park Ridge Park District. Oddly enough, they don’t seem to quite match up, but they may satisfy the cliche: “Close enough for government work.”

The City’s 11-page report [pdf] reports, at page 11, “Total Program Costs” of $37,813.10, and another $22,299 for the cost of City employees.  The Park District’s 1-page report [pdf], on the other hand, shows $26,683.30 in “Total – Expenses.”   

We may be missing something, but if those two governmental bodies can’t seem to come up with the exact same accounting for such a relatively small project and dollar amount, we wonder what might be happening with the multi-millions of dollars in revenues and expenses they handle each year.  But that’s an issue for another time.

We also wonder about the “exclusive” deal the Kiwanis Clubs appear to have for all the food concessions at the fireworks (City report, page 4) – without any evidence that they are contributing anything toward the cost of the show.  We’ve got nothing against the Kiwanis, but so long as the City, the Park District and District 207 are using thousands of our tax dollars to make this event happen – and even the Park Ridge Fine Arts Society is kicking in $8,000 for the musical program – we see no reason for anybody to get a monopoly on anything unless they’re willing to pay for that privilege.  

Meanwhile, it’s time for the City, the Park District and School Dist. 207 to sit down together and exercise a little intergovernmental cooperation to make sure the burdens, the benefits and the kudos for the fireworks show are fairly allocated among all three bodies – and among the taxpayers of their overlapping but not identical territories. If private sponsors can be found to underwrite all or part of the event, so much the better.  

Because when it comes to as traditional a community event as our July 3rd fireworks display, the show must go on! 

Making An Alibi Out Of Fair Housing


In the past decade there has been exactly one – yes, just one – complaint raised by anyone in connection with housing discrimination in Park Ridge.  To most reasonable people, that would mean that our realtors are doing a good job in treating all potential real estate purchasers fairly. 

But apparently not if you are Park Ridge Fair Housing Commission chairman Nan Parson.

Ms. Parson and her sidekick, former Third Ward alderman Sue Bell, see that one complaint not as a sign that things are being done right but, to the contrary, as a sure sign that other fair housing violations are occurring but aren’t being reported because all those victims of unfair housing practices here in Park Ridge don’t know their rights. 

So for the past couple of months they have been publicly complaining about how the City Council’s proposed revision of the City’s Fair Housing Ordinance (FHO) is taking away their powers to make Park Ridge safe for…well, we’re not sure whom, because Nan and Sue can’t seem to identify any of those unfair housing victims.

Last week’s Herald-Advocate published a letter from Ms. Parson (“With no voice how can housing be fair,” August 7) that reveals an agenda that goes well beyond the concept of “fair’ housing.

Parson writes that on August 18, the City Council members are “going to vote to cut [the Fair Housing Commission] out of the investigatory process.”  Her Commission, however, has not had a role in the investigatory process under the FHO.  Section 14-14-2 of that ordinance gives the sole power and authority to investigate fair housing complaints to the City Manager.

But Parson’s letter goes on to talk about our “citizens who are threatened by difference and change,” the need to “embrace change,” and “welcoming and protecting those who are in the most need of protection.”  She even concedes that fair housing is only one of the “several areas” in which our community should “do the right thing.” 

We think it’s time for Nan and Sue to cut the code-speak and talk straight with our citizens.  If their goal is to change the racial or ethnic complexion of our community, they should have the courage and the decency to come out and say so – and let that issue be debated openly and meaningfully by the City Council and the people they represent. 

It’s time they stopped hiding their true intentions behind a Fair Housing Ordinance that actually appears to have done its job well. 

We’re Entitled To Open, Honest Government


Yesterday, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote about former Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman’s guilty plea in connection with the federal corruption charges against her for soliciting bribes from people doing business with the City of Chicago. (“What Troutman will get out of her guilty plea,” Aug. 7).

You may remember Troutman for her quote, which allegedly was recorded by the feds: ”Most politicians are hos.”  “Ho,” as in people of loose moral standards who sell themselves for money or other favors.

We’re not sure exactly how accurate Ms. Troutman’s assessment of those people who make a career out of politics might be, although we’re not inclined to strongly disagree with her.  That would be hard to do, given all of the successful criminal prosecutions of state, county and City of Chicago politicians and their henchmen over the years.

In his column, Brown went on to describe how “[b]ribes are for chumps like Troutman” because the sharpest, most experienced politicians have more subtle ways of doing business with the people who are interested in pay-to-play government, and don’t ever really have to ask for the favors they are interested in giving out:

“[P]olitician-lawyers get rich on legal fees, which of course are entirely legal, not at all like bribes, or what would be the use of having a legal degree? Or real estate business is steered to a politician’s relative, or insurance, if that’s the family’s game. Nobody ever need mention doing this for that, the quid pro quo that can get a conviction.”

We are entitled to honest, open, transparent and accountable government.  But we have to demand it – regularly, consistently and uncompromisingly – from our public officials at every level. 

So the next time our City Council, School Board or Park Board members duck into another closed session, or circulate “confidential” memos among themselves, or negotiate sweetheart deals with their friends or campaign contributors, or just do something that doesn’t make sense to us, we are entitled to ask: “Who’s getting what, and why?”